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Fed. Judge Dismisses $12 Million Defamation Suit For Katie Couric’s Gun Documentary

NBC's Katie Couric. (WikiMedia)
June 02, 2017

A federal judge found that a Second Amendment group interviewed in Katie Couric’s gun documentary, “Under The Gun,” could not prove that filmmakers edited the footage in an effort to defame them.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. ruled that Katie Couric, director Stephanie Soechtig, production company Atlas Films and distributor Epix did not attempt to defame the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) in the documentary.

The VCDL filed a lawsuit against them last September for a part of the documentary that they said was edited to defame the group.

During one part of the documentary, members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League appear to have no answer to a question that Couric asks in an interview.

The question she asked was, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from walking into, say, a licensed gun dealer and purchasing a gun?”

The group stays silent in the film, but it was revealed that the group did have an immediate response to the question.

Attorneys for the Virginia Citizens Defense League argued that the footage was taken when the members were told by the production crew to stay quiet for 10 seconds for a “calibration check.”

VCDL President Philip Van Cleave released an audiotape that was published on the Washington Free Beacon revealing a different response.

“If there are no background checks, how do you prevent — I know how you all are going to answer this, but I’m going to ask it anyway. If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from walking into, say, a licensed gun dealer and purchasing a gun?” Couric can be heard asking in the recording.

“Well, one — if you’re not in jail, you should still have your basic rights,” one VCDL member can be heard saying.

Another member, Daniel Hawes can be heard immediately following up on the question.

“The fact is we do have statutes, both at the federal and state level that prohibit classes of people from being in possession of firearms. If you’re under 18, in Virginia, you can’t walk around with a gun. If you’re an illegal immigrant, if you’re a convicted felon, if you’ve been adjudicated insane, these things are already illegal. So, what we’re really asking about is a question of prior restraint. How can we prevent future crime by identifying bad guys before they do anything bad? And, the simple answer is you can’t. And, particularly, under the legal system we have in the United States, there are a lot of Supreme Court opinions that say, “No, prior restraint is something that the government does not have the authority to do.” Until there is an overt act that allows us to say, “That’s a bad guy,” then you can’t punish him.”

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. dismissed the claim, saying the editing was not dishonest.

“The plaintiffs’ defamation claims fail because the interview scene is not false. ‘Under the Gun’ portrays members of the VCDL not answering the question posed by Couric,” Gibney said. “In reality, members of the VCDL did not answer the question posed by Couric. They talked about background checks and gun laws generally, but did not answer the question of how to prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing guns without background checks. The editing simply dramatizes the sophistry of the VCDL members.”

On Wednesday, the VCDL mentioned through a Facebook post that Gibney was a nomination to the court by former President Barack Obama and was approved by the Senate on December 16, 2010, during the lame duck session.